Alligators in the Sewers A Novel by Ken David Stewart
Russ Bridges was enjoying a long, restful nap on his new black leather couch. He was startled out of a deep sleep when he heard a loud pounding on his front door. Russ had just turned sixty-six was enjoying his first year of retirement as the former superintendent of sewers for the city of New York. It was 2:05 PM on June 11, 2020. He had been reading the novel It by Stephen King. It was not unusual for Russ to fall asleep on his couch while reading in the mid-afternoon. Stephen King was Russ’s favorite author and It was his favorite novel by the most popular horror writer of the century. This was usually how people defined Stephen King as a writer, but the author hated this limited, restrictive view of his writing.
As the pounding on his door became louder, Russ managed to lift his substantial bulk off the couch. When Russ opened his front door he saw Sean Webb, the new superintendent of sewers. Sean took over Russ’s position when he retired. Sean looked very anxious when Russ opened the door for him. “Can I smoke in your house, Russ? I’m all stressed out and I need to talk to you.”
“Sure. Come on in, Sean. Yeah, you can smoke in my house. I gave up smoking about ten years ago.
“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice or rather no notice should say,” Sean said as his trembling hand reached into the front pocket of his shirt for his pack of Marlborough Reds cigarettes.
“I have a serious problem at work and I really need your advice, Russ. Have you ever heard or seen anything to do with alligators in the New York sewer system?”
“Yeah, I know quite a bit about the problem, but I haven’t told anybody about it. Before I retired from your job, I had to sign a bunch of documents swearing me to secrecy concerning that topic,” Russ answered.
“Why don’t you find a place to park yourself in my living room, Sean?”
“Where did you find an orange easy chair, Russ?
“On eBay. It’s a rare color for an easy chair but don’t ask me how much I paid for it. Would you like some coffee to go with your cigarette?”
Russ reached over to his fireplace mantel and took a very weird looking ashtray from the top of it. The ashtray was a beige color shaped like an alligator. Russ placed it on the glass coffee table in front of Sean’s chair.
“You are starting to freak me out Russ. This ashtray looks a lot like a white albino alligator. This is like a foreboding symbol of why I’m here to meet with you,” Sean said.
“What do you like in your coffee?
“Some coffee creamer and Sugar Twin would be great if you have it.”
“You’re in luck. That’s exactly what I put in my coffee. My favorite flavor is hazelnut. What’s yours?”
Sean managed a nervous laugh. “What a coincidence. That’s my favorite too.”
“My wife gets on my back quite a bit about using Sugar Twin. Ruth’s a nurse and she never fails to tell me that artificial sweeteners cause cancer. I told her that I don’t worry about that because I want to die before she does. I’m being serious, too. I don’t know how I would manage without my wife.”
Russ hated the aging process. He didn’t like the fact that he could not do all the things that he was able to do at age forty. Russ had been somewhat of a high-energy freak of nature when he was younger. He was still trying to make a difficult adjustment to his new life as a senior citizen. This was not an easy transition for him. Since his retirement he had put on about twenty pounds that he did not need that were causing him to slow down in his daily life activities. Russ found that with each passing year he seemed to either reduce or had to eliminate one of the activities that he had enjoyed doing the year before. Life isn’t fair. A man of Russ’s intellect and drive could not understand or accept the inevitable fact that he was being forced to slow down in his senior years.
Russ wasn’t very happy with his life now that he was retired. It bothered him that he no longer knew how much time he had to live. His father had passed away at age forty-two after suffering a massive heart attack. This really shook Russ up, and he started thinking about his own longevity.
Russ had a lot of regrets even when he was in his prime. He had a poor self-image. He knew that he had excelled in his work for the city of New York, but felt that, in most areas of his life, he had been a failure.
Sean’s hand was still shaking as he took a long way drag from his Marlboro cigarette. “I’d sure like to hear any information you have, Russ. I feel like I’m going crazy. Sure, I heard some stories about alligators in our sewer system, but I thought it was just an urban legend. So did most of my coworkers until they started claiming they actually saw alligators while they were performing their sewer maintenance duties. At first, I didn’t believe them when a couple of my staff told me about their encounters with these reptiles. I just figured that seeing that I was their new supervisor they decided to tell me these stories as a sort of an initiation prank.”
Joshua Jacobson could best be summed up as being a nerd. He was seventeen years old and attended Manhattan Central High School. Joshua’s level of intelligence would be close to the genius level. He excelled in all his grade twelve subjects, but he liked his math and science classes the most. Joshua was an intellectual in every sense of the word. Although his great desire was to be a famous scientist one day, he was also a voracious reader with interests in a wide variety of subjects.
Joshua read nearly everything he could get his hands on. Although his parents were on the lower strata of the annual income spectrum, and neither one had earned a high school diploma, they were very aware and were very proud of Josh’s intellectual accomplishments. From an early age they had a sense that God had given their son and amazing brain for a reason. Although Josh’s parents were poor, they used what little extra money they had to further Josh’s ambitions. As Josh enjoyed reading and conducting research so much, his parents paid for his monthly subscriptions to Audible Audiobooks, so that their son could choose a new audiobook to listen to each month. They also invested in a subscription to Scribd, a website service that allows its subscribers to read an unlimited number of books on a wide variety of topics. Science fiction books had always been Josh’s favorites.
Attending high school was at times pure hell for Josh. Senior years schools have long been known for bullying students that did not fit the predetermined criteria of what was considered normal. The social aspect of high school was based on cliques. Every high school student ended up in a clique that was defined by possessing certain, identifiable physical and mental attributes.
There was some overlap, but generally all high school students received a mandatory designation that they were in some group or clique. There was sometimes some overlap, but rarely was a student integrated into more than one or two defining groups.
The first category was known as the brains. This entity consisted of all kinds of all the students that were known for getting the highest marks in all subjects on the secondary education curriculum. The brains were usually not very popular with the rest of the student body. These academic high achievers were either disdained, ignored or were used by their peers. The brains could be helpful to their less academically gifted counterparts in certain situations. Brains came in handy when one needed to cheat on a test or exam or copy yesterday’s homework assignments. The trade-off or you can say. the upside for the brains was that some of their fellow students who required their services offered the brains protection from other students who would bully them, steal from them or threaten to beat them up.
The second clique was known as the jocks. This group consisted of all the star athletes in the school. A third group was labelled as the stoners. This group of students were known for regularly ingesting a wide variety of both prescription and illegal drugs. The brains and the jocks rarely had anything to do with the stoners. Stoners were not known for doing well in their academic studies because they were, as their name implied, usually flying high on some psychoactive substance that would interfere with their cerebral ability to concentrate on their schoolwork.
There was a subgroup of students within the stoners who were talented musicians. The ones that played in a band were generally held in high regard by almost all the student body. The jocks envied the artistic talents of the musically gifted stoners and were very pissed off by the fact that student musicians who played in local bands often had more groupies than the jocks. The jocks could never conceive how these scrawny, dope smoking rockers didn’t need to have any respectable physique to attract females. The jocks never grasped the concept that these musically gifted stoners needed to practice their guitar licks just as long and hard as the football team had to practice their passing, blocking and running drills.
The last high school clique were the most unfortunate ones. This group was cruelly referred to as the nerds. The nerds presented in all shapes and sizes, but their most prominent distinction was that they all presented as being weird in some way or another. Some were morbidly obese, some were tall and lanky and had faces that were crated like the surface of the moon with acne. Many of them offended their peers and teachers because of their strong repulsive body odor.
The nerds were mostly shunned by the vast majority of the student body and faculty. On rare occasions, a student that was considered normal would attempt to befriend them or at the very least try to strike up a conversation with them. Those few nerds that received these acts of kindness were often forever grateful for even the slightest sign of attention and acceptance. The few students who displayed this kind of compassion often found that the result would be that the few grateful nerds would cling to them and wouldn’t leave them alone for at least a semester.